ACC: Stanford Cardinal

#CampusConnection: Primetime Live

December, 7, 2013
The college football regular season has come down to this. Plenty is on the line tonight as the Pac-12, ACC and Big Ten hold their title games and we’ll be here with you every step of the way.

So head on over to Campus Connection at 7:45 ET and follow the action along with several of our on-site reporters, including Ted Miller (Pac-12), Andrea Adelson (ACC), David Hale (ACC), Brian Bennett (Big Ten) and Adam Rittenberg (Big Ten). Post your comments and questions and we’ll include as many of them as possible.
North Carolina led the way among ACC schools in the final standings of the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup, which measures the overall success of a school's athletic program.

Points are awarded to each program based on its finish in up to 20 sports -- 10 women’s and 10 men’s. Four ACC teams finished in the Top 20, tied for second with the SEC among all conferences.

Stanford won the Cup for the 19th straight year. Here is a look at how the ACC programs did, including Pitt and Syracuse. I also included Louisville, which joins in 2014.

No. 8 North Carolina

No. 11 Florida State

No. 12 Duke

No. 20 Virginia

No. 34 NC State

No. 36 Virginia Tech

No. 38 Louisville

No. 39 Syracuse

No. 44 Maryland

No. 52 Clemson

No. 71 Miami

No. 74 Georgia Tech

No. 76 Boston College

No. 98 Wake Forest

No. 109 Pittsburgh

A few notes:
  • Duke finished third among all private schools, behind Stanford and Notre Dame (ninth). The Blue Devils have now placed among the top 20 in the Directors' Cup Standings for 10 consecutive years.
  • NC State had its second-highest finish ever, and set a school record with its 633.6 points earned, topping the previous high mark of 576.6 set last year.
  • Syracuse finished in the Top 40 for the first time in school history, as four programs reached the Final Four in their respective sports: women’s field hockey, men’s basketball and women’s and men’s lacrosse.

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 2, 2013
Practice kicks off in 30 days y'all.

Gilmore: Ranking the Top 10 defenses

December, 18, 2012
There is no debate about this: Florida State had one of the best defenses in the nation this season.

But where would the Seminoles rank in the Top 10? ESPN analyst Rod Gilmore unveiled his own Top 10 list Insider and has the Seminoles at No. 5, behind Florida, Alabama, Notre Dame and Stanford.

Here is how those five schools stack up in the NCAA rankings for total defense:
  • No. 1 Alabama
  • No. 2 Florida State
  • No. 5 Florida
  • No. 6 Notre Dame
  • No. 21 Stanford

Here is how they rank in the NCAA stats for scoring defense:
  • No. 1 Notre Dame
  • No. 2 Alabama
  • No. 3 Florida
  • No. 7 Florida State
  • No. 14 Stanford

Comparing defenses is all very subjective, considering the quality of opponent is different for these teams. I don't have much of a quibble with Florida, Alabama and Notre Dame being ranked ahead of Florida State. The Gators are 11-1 and in the Sugar Bowl based on the strength of their defense. EJ Manuel did have his worst performance of the season in a loss to Florida.

The Irish have a terrific front seven -- and only one opponent scored more than 20 points on 'em all year. Alabama is strong all over the place, and in the national title game.

But if I were doing my own rankings, I would not have Stanford in the Top 5. Florida State had one of the best defensive duos in the nation with Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine. Werner is a unanimous All-American selection this year. And as Gilmore writes, "the Seminoles have arguably the best secondary in the nation."

Stanford was quite impressive this season, too. I watched every snap of the Cardinal's win over Oregon. That group is as tough and physical as they come, playing an East Coast brand of defense in the more high-flying Pac-12. But overall, I think Florida State was better, and at least worthy of a higher spot in the rankings.

Week 3 sneak peek

September, 10, 2012
Here’s a look at the top three games for Week 3, and what’s on tap in the rest of the conference:

1. Wake Forest at No. 5 Florida State (Noon ET, ESPNU): The Deacs have already earned their first conference win, while the Seminoles have done exactly what’s been expected of them – hammer overmatched FCS schools. It’s time for the Noles to start proving they’re a top-10 team, and they’ve got to do it against a program that has found a way to beat them in four of the past six meetings, including last year. The Atlantic Division race begins with this game in Tallahassee.

2. Virginia at Georgia Tech (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU): This will be an important game for the Coastal Division standings, but even more important for Georgia Tech because the Jackets already have a conference loss. The Cavaliers are looking to build upon their 2-0 start, but this is the first of back-to-back road games.

3. North Carolina at No. 19 Louisville (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2): This is more intriguing than any of the other matchups against Big East teams because of Louisville’s success. UNC won this game 14-7 last year. Can they do it again, this time on the road and with a new head coach and staff? The defense will have to be in lockdown mode against quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in order to answer yes.

The best of the rest (in no particular order):

Boston College at Northwestern (3:30 p.m. ET; Big Ten Network): Northwestern won this game 24-17 last year in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and did it with its backup quarterback. This year, the Wildcats are led by running back Venric Mark, who rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries in last weekend’s win over Vanderbilt. Boston College receiver Spiffy Evans had a touchdown catch and an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown in the Eagles’ win over Maine.

Furman at Clemson (3 p.m. ET, RSN): Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins will make his debut after being suspended for the first two games of the season. The task for the Tigers will be to stay focused and not look ahead to the Week 4 trip to Florida State.

Connecticut at Maryland (12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network): The Edsall Bowl’s biggest story line will be Randy Edsall facing his former team and players while trying to improve to 3-0. Edsall was the head coach at UConn from 1999-2010, but the two programs haven’t faced each other since 1942.

South Alabama at NC State (6 p.m. ET, ESPN3): There shouldn’t be much drama in this game for the Pack, which is coming off an unimpressive 10-7 win against Connecticut. NC State won 35-13 last year and quarterback Mike Glennon threw four touchdown passes. In order to do that again, he’ll have to stay on his feet. He was sacked six times last weekend.

NC Central at Duke (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3): Duke’s offense was shut down against Stanford, but one bright spot was Desmond Scott, who caught a career-high 11 passes for 83 yards vs. Stanford. NC Central receiver Geovonie Irvine has scored three touchdowns in two games.

Bethune-Cookman at Miami (12 p.m. ET, ESPN3): The Canes’ defense has been abysmal in the first two games, and it won’t help that linebacker Ramon Buchanan will miss the rest of the season with a right knee injury and safety Vaughn Telemaque is out for this week's game. Miami will still win, but it has to improve quickly to be a factor in the ACC race.

No. 13 Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh (12 p.m. ET, ESPNU): The Panthers have looked dreadful -- there’s no polite way to say it. Virginia Tech’s offense, though, is still experiencing some growing pains, and this will be the Hokies’ first road trip of the season. Pitt has won the past three games in the series, but the teams haven’t played since 2003. This will be a sneak peak of the ACC’s future member.

Instant analysis: Stanford 50, Duke 13

September, 9, 2012
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Thanks to a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown by Drew Terrell following the first series of the game, the Stanford offense didn't take a snap without the lead as the Cardinal cruised to a 50-13 win. Here are a few highlights from the Cardinal's impressive victory:

It was over when: Duke failed to recover an onside kick to begin the second half. Stanford capitalized with a quick touchdown drive -- capped by a 19-yard pass from Josh Nunes to Terrell -- to go up 30-3.

Game ball goes to: Safety Ed Reynolds already has as many interceptions this season (three) as team leader Michael Thomas did all of last year. He had two picks against Duke, the first of which he returned 78 yards for a touchdown.

Stat of the game: Four yards rushing for Duke in the first half. Stanford forced the Blue Devils to be one-dimensional from the start, which had a trickle down effect on their passing game. Duke settled for quick passes to the perimeter, which played into Stanford's strength on defense.

Unsung hero: Shayne Skov. Coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Skov might not have shown up in the box score like he's been known to do (four tackles, one pass breakup), but his presence added a noticeable swagger to the defense -- something it lacked against San Jose State.

What it means: Stanford will still be big underdogs next week when it hosts No. 2 USC, but the prognosis for the rest of the season looks much better than it did after its closer-than-anticipated win against San Jose State in the season opener. By building a big early lead, coach David Shaw and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton were able to keep a lid on portions of the offense that'll be available against the Trojans.

ACC predictions: Week 2

September, 6, 2012
It was a respectable Week 1, as I only missed two games -- Duke and NC State -- for an 8-2 record. I’m kicking myself for not going with my gut on the Blue Devils, and I will freely admit I had been drinking the Tom O’Brien Kool-Aid all summer. Much like the ACC on opening week, I’ve got room for improvement. Here’s to a better Week 2:

Boston College 31, Maine 20: If the Eagles don’t win this game, they might not win any. I don’t think that’s the case, though. BC had 542 yards of total offense against Miami and took a 14-0 lead. Saturday’s game will be the season opener for Maine, which returns 15 starters from last season’s 9-4 team.

Clemson 34, Ball State 21. After a strong performance against Auburn, Clemson is due for a little bit of a letdown game. Remember the Wofford game last year? Clemson fell behind 21-13? Yeah, kind of like that. Ball State is very well-coached. Clemson will win this game, but it might not wake up until the fourth quarter.

Florida State 59, Savannah State o: This will be a good opportunity for the defensive linemen to adjust to life without injured starting defensive end Brandon Jenkins. Tank Carradine will move into Jenkins’ spot, and it could get ugly for Savannah State, which could start four freshmen on the offensive line. This will be the final tune-up before conference play begins next week against Atlantic Division opponent Wake Forest.

Temple 17, Maryland 7: The Owls, now in the Big East, are a physical, tough-minded football team that was able to beat the Terps in College Park last year. Maryland is just so young offensively that the Terps are going to have trouble executing. The defense will keep them in this game, but the offense won’t be enough to win it.

ANDREA ADELSON’S BIG EAST TAKE: The Terrapins appear to be in worse shape now than they were when Temple won this meeting last season 38-7. The Terps are starting a true freshman at quarterback in Perry Hills, and have had to deal with injuries to key players on both offense and defense. They barely squeaked out a 7-6 win over William & Mary and had only 236 yards of total offense. Temple was outstanding running the football last week against Villanova and now has to start working on its pass game, which struggled in Week 1. Defensively, Temple had four sacks and forced two turnovers. Simply put, the Owls are the better team. Temple 35, Maryland 14.

NC State 27, Connecticut 24: This has the feel of a last-play-of-the-game type of matchup, but the Wolfpack will be able to shake off the loss to Tennessee and win this one in the fourth quarter. The Pack got its wake-up call already. It should have the advantage in the matchup against the Huskies’ receivers -- no, really.

AA’S TAKE: There are two ACC/Big East matchups Saturday afternoon, and two perfect opportunities for the league. The Huskies are going to present a huge challenge for the Wolfpack, who looked out of sorts in their opening loss to Tennessee. UConn does not have the speed Tennessee does at the skill positions, but the Huskies have what appears to be a good-looking defense and will keep them in the game. UConn's offense was just so-so last week, but NC State gave up many big plays on defense and All-American cornerback David Amerson was beatable. If the Huskies can hit a couple of big plays and get Lyle McCombs going, they will be in good shape. Overall, I think UConn has the better defense, and that is why I am picking the Huskies in my upset special! UConn 21, NC State 20.

North Carolina 35, Wake Forest 24: The Tar Heels are a talented team, particularly on offense, and they will be difficult for the Deacs to defend. No, North Carolina’s rout of Elon wasn’t a good indicator of what to expect all season from the Tar Heels, but it was a more convincing performance than what we saw from Wake Forest against Liberty in Week 1.

Stanford 41, Duke 38: Defense? What defense? Stanford didn’t look good in its win against San Jose State last week, but the Cardinal will have home-field advantage, while Duke has to travel across the country for a 10:30 p.m. ET kickoff. Expect another big day for quarterback Sean Renfree and Conner Vernon, but the defense will come up short on the road.

Georgia Tech 55, Presbyterian 7: The Yellow Jackets looked better defensively against Virginia Tech than they were a year ago, and this will be a good chance for them to correct the mistakes they saw on the game film. It’s the first of four straight home games.

K-State 31, Miami 24: K-State will control the clock and drive Al Golden nuts. Miami will be in this game, but Kansas State will be too much for the Canes’ defense, which allowed BC 542 total yards last week. K-State had 324 yards rushing in last week’s 51-9 win over Missouri State.

Virginia 24, Penn State 14: The Hoos are a well-coached team with home-field advantage against a team that is riding an emotional roller coaster. Virginia is focused, and those within the program say they are not distracted by the ongoing story that is Penn State.

Virginia Tech 45, Austin Peay 6: The Hokies have some work to do offensively, despite their 21-17 overtime win against Georgia Tech on Monday night. They shouldn’t have a problem reaching the end zone against an overmatched Austin Peay team.

ACC upset watch: Week 2

September, 5, 2012
I was shocked -- shocked I tell you -- that none of the teams on last week’s Upset Watch fell. Usually there’s at least one surprise in the ACC every week, but the conference pretty much stuck to the script, with Virginia Tech, Clemson and Maryland all winning. (I remind you the upset watch is not a list of predictions, rather it is a look at the teams with the best chance to be upset or cause one). With four FCS schools, one MAC school and two Big East schools on the schedule this week, there should be no reason for concern this week … right?


Here’s your Week 2 upset watch (and no, a Temple win against Maryland is no longer considered an upset. It’s expected):

1. NC State at Connecticut: The Wolfpack is notorious for its slow starts and strong finishes under coach Tom O’Brien. Was the loss to Tennessee an anomaly, or was it the continuation of that trend? We’ll find out when the Pack travels to Storrs, Conn. NC State had four turnovers on Friday, and Connecticut beat Massachusetts, 37-0. UConn linebacker Yawin Smallwood had seven tackles, including 3.5 for lost yardage, as the Huskies limited UMass to 59 total yards. Connecticut is one of the better teams in the Big East, but it’s still a game NC State should win.

2. Duke at Stanford: Considering the way Stanford played in its 20-17 win against San Jose State, Duke’s biggest obstacle might be the cross-country travel and 10:30 p.m. ET kick. The Blue Devils are confident after their 46-26 win against FIU last week. Duke receiver Conner Vernon became the school’s career leader in receptions last week with 208, and linebacker Austin Gamble had 11 tackles, a forced fumble and blocked kick.

3. Miami at No. 21 Kansas State: This is going to be an uphill battle for a team that played 12 true freshmen in its road win against Boston College, but that’s the point -- the Canes managed to win their ACC opener on the road with such a young team. It’s brimming with potential, but Kansas State is a better team than Boston College. Miami will need to improve quickly to pull this off. Watch the running backs in this game, as Miami freshman Duke Johnson scored on touchdown runs of 54 and 56 yards against Boston College, and Kansas State running back John Hubert rushed for 152 yards on 12 carries vs. Missouri State.

ACC's lunchtime links

September, 5, 2012
Who you got, Cowboys or Giants?

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 17, 2012
Syracuse will make the leap in July, 2013. I'd be shocked if Pitt didn't follow in time.

Friday mailblog: ACC and the BCS

June, 29, 2012
On Thursday, I asked you guys to submit your best and worst memories of the ACC and the BCS as we bid farewell to the old system (well, in two years, anyway) and welcome a four-team playoff. Thanks for playin'. Oddly enough, Virginia Tech got some love for both the best AND the worst of the BCS. Here's a sampling of your comments:

The good ...

Jose in Charlotte, NC writes: I would say the best is Virginia Tech's performance in the 2009 Orange Bowl against Cincinnati. It was the first ACC BCS win since '99 and the hokies played a great game on both sides of the ball: Forcing 4 interceptions on defense and Darren Evans rushing for 153 yards. The best moment of the game was the defense stopping Tony Pike on four consecutive QB sneaks at the goal line. I was at that game and it was just thrilling to watch.

matt in nyc writes: Sadly the runner up for best BCS moment (behind fsu in 1999) was VT's win over Cinci...ouch! Bring on the playoffs!

Not a Terp fan in Bethesda Maryland writes: ... The Best.... Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl! Without the BCS a great little program like Wake would never have made it!

Shaun in Leesburg, Georgia writes: The 2006 Orange Bowl was a great game. They say there is no such thing as a "good loss," but that was a game the ACC could be proud of. It was the 10-1 Big Ten Champions -- whom had just run rampant through their league -- going up against an 8-4 group that had backed their way into their league's inaugural championship game. The Seminoles put up a helluva fight en route to a triple-overtime loss. It was an instant classic!

Wayne in tallahassee, Florida writes: I think the best and worse of the BCS happened at the same time. 98-2000 when FSU went to three straight was probably the best of the BCS for the ACC. At the same time it is the worse as FSU lost two of those games, hurts me to say that too as I am a Nole.

The bad ...

Jeremy in Columbia, SC writes: Granted Clemson's defensive performance last year was quite embarrasing for the Tigers, but even worse for the ACC as a whole is the overall 2-13 record in BCS games fueld by FSU and VT's 1-5 performances.When all is said and done and the ACC looks back on the BCS, they will spend less time thinking less about Clemson's single game, and more time thanking the stars that the disastrous BCS era and the embarrassing conference record that went along with it has come to an end. So to answer your question: The worst thing about the BCS for the ACC as a conference? EVERYTHING.

Trenton Tovar in Nashville, TN writes: I think a close 2nd to the Clemson debacle was Stanford's thrashing of VT the previous year.

Brad in Clemson, SC writes: A very close second has to be VT vs. Stanford. At least Clemson put some points on the board. Clemson also gave up just one offensive TD longer than 30 yards. VT gave up 4

kevin in Memphis, TN writes: 2000 Miami BCS snub by FSU. A team they beat in the regular season. Worst. Could have been back to back titles for the Canes.

Steven in Huntsville, Alabama writes: Heather, I believe you got it completely right regarding the best and worst of the BCS for the ACC. I believe that Florida State set a standard with that wire to wire #1 championship season, which I believe still, applies today. They showed that if you are the favorite at the beginning of the season, prove all the way through and leave no doubt in anyone?s mind that you deserved it. I think that Clemson's loss to West Virginia was the absolute worse. When I first heard the score at half time, I thought it was a joke. I mean after the season they had, winning the ACC Championship game, and getting matched up with West Virginia, I thought the set up was excellent for the ACC. Well we know how that ended.

Live chat: BCS Journey

November, 27, 2011
Join our college football experts as they take a look back on Week 13 and ahead to Week 14.

Update: ACC vs. nonconference opponents

October, 6, 2011
Two teams -- North Carolina and NC State -- conclude their nonconference portion of the schedule this week with games against Louisville and Central Michigan, respectively. Virginia Tech, Virginia and Duke have wrapped up their nonconference schedules, and most of the other teams are three-quarters of the way through. As we approach the midpoint of the season, here's a look at how the ACC has fared against its nonconference opponents so far:

ACC versus ...

Big East: 1-3
The skinny: The ACC lost to Syracuse, West Virginia and Cincinnati. Wake Forest's OT loss to Cuse probably wouldn't have happened had quarterback Tanner Price stayed on his feet for another 11 minutes. NC State's loss to Cincy was dreadful, and Maryland's loss to the Mountaineers wasn't unexpected.
Coming up: UNC faces Louisville this weekend, and Miami plays South Florida on November 19. The ACC needs to win BOTH of those games just to break even.

Big Ten: 2-1
The skinny: BC's loss to Northwestern and the Wildcats' backup quarterback was a sign of troubles to come for the Eagles, but I don't think anyone realized just how significant those troubles were. Virginia beat a terrible Indiana team, and Miami's win over Ohio State is looking less and less impressive each week.

Big 12: 1-2
The skinny: Georgia Tech pounded Kansas, 66-24, and got redemption for its embarrassing 2010 loss. Florida State's loss to Oklahoma ruined the program's hopes for a national title, but the game itself was nothing to be ashamed of. FSU proved it closed the gap with one of the top teams in the nation and put on a much better showing than it did a year ago. Miami's loss to K-State? Not looking so awful these days, as Kansas State is now in the top 25.

Pac-12: 0-1
The skinny: The surprise was not that Duke lost to Stanford, rather that Duke put itself in position to actually win this game in the first half. Good effort by the Blue Devils. Better effort by Andrew Luck.

SEC: 1-0
The skinny: You hear dat, C-low? 1-0. Auburn. Psh. Clemson knocked off the defending national champs, and it looks like the Tigers can beat South Carolina, too. Hey, if Auburn can do it ...
Coming up: The month of November is where the ACC needs to make a statement. September 17 was the big week in the ACC, but beating your rivals is always huge. South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Vandy are all on the schedule. The ACC has a chance to go out with a flourish.

Total against BCS conferences: 5-7
Overall: 27-11
ACC vs. FCS: 12-1

ACC predictions: Week 2

September, 8, 2011
It wasn’t a stellar debut for the ACC in Week 1, nor were my picks anything to brag about. I went 7-4 in the opening week with erroneous picks for Boston College, Wake Forest, Duke and Miami. The first three, I still argue, should have won their respective games. Miami was a gamble, I admit, but the Terps deserve credit for that win.

This week holds some gambles as well.

Upsets, anyone?

Central Florida 31, Boston College 20: UCF has a talented, athletic quarterback in Jeff Godfrey, and the Knights will cause the Eagles’ defense some problems. UCF allowed Charleston Southern to gain more than seven yards on only three of its 11 drives last week. BC’s offense took another hit when receiver Ifeanyi Momah suffered a season-ending injury.

Wake Forest 28, NC State 24: The Deacs likely would have hung onto their 15-point lead over Syracuse last weekend had quarterback Tanner Price not been injured in the fourth quarter. He is expected to play on Saturday, and will be the difference along with running back Josh Harris.

Clemson 42, Wofford 17: Wofford will control the football with the triple option, but they won’t be able to stop Clemson. The Tigers failed to convert on their first nine chances on third down against Troy, but will continue the success they had in the second half against Wofford.

Florida State 52, Charleston Southern 0: The Seminoles will get their first back-to-back shutouts during their time in the ACC. FSU held Louisiana-Monroe to 191 yards of total offense and the Noles had 10.5 tackles for loss.

Stanford 41, Duke 21. Stanford wins easily, but Duke will score some points. It’s one thing to come across the country to play a bowl game, it’s another to do it in a weekend. Still, the Blue Devils will be overmatched and won’t be able to slow down quarterback Andrew Luck.

Middle Tennessee 28, Georgia Tech 27: The Blue Raiders are well-versed in defending the triple option, and they’re coming off an impressive performance in a near-win over Purdue. Middle Tennessee led at Purdue until the Boilermakers hit a 35-yard TD pass with 49 seconds left last week.

North Carolina 28, Rutgers 3: Quarterback Bryn Renner will shine again, and the Tar Heels’ defense will stifle the Scarlet Knights. Interim coach Everett Withers praised the Knights’ offensive line, but his is better and UNC will win the game up front.

Virginia 34, Indiana 24: Statistically, Virginia is one of the best teams in the country now. The Hoosiers will have a tough time stopping Kevin Parks and the Cavaliers’ running game, and Virginia will be able to control the ball just like Ball State did in a 27-20 win over IU last weekend.

Virginia Tech 48, East Carolina 17: The Hokies will control the ball and go up and down the field. They’re good enough defensively that they won’t allow ECU a chance to be a real threat. This will be the toughest nonconference test of the season for the Hokies and they will pass -- and run, and pass, and run some more.

Duke coach readies for Luck

September, 7, 2011
David Cutcliffe knows quarterbacks.

Duke's head coach mentored both the Manning boys, Peyton at Tennessee and Eli at Ole Miss, and said Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is cut from the same cloth.

"He's a little different than the Mannings, but he's got all of those tools, being you start with how you play the game," Cutcliffe said. "And it's not just the physical gifts. He plays the game really well to avoid sacks, pocket movement, awareness of the game, throwing the ball away when you need to and minimizing errors. He does that as well as any I have seen."

Stanford heads to Duke Saturday coming off a 57-3 win over San Jose State. Duke, meanwhile, is trying to pick up the pieces after dropping its opener to Richmond, 23-21. It's the third time in six years Duke has lost to the FCS school. It's also the second straight year the Blue Devils will be hosting a Top-10, nonconference team. Last year they fell to No. 1 Alabama 62-13.

Despite the loss, Cutcliffe said his team had a spirited practice on Sunday and the players took Monday off.

"We're going to prepare and prepare well," Cutcliffe said Monday night. "Unfortunately, we're dealing with a lot of adversity in that regard, but we've never done a poor job preparing. I think we let Alabama beat us twice last year. But we're not going to let that happen again.

"We're already out of the tall growth and have the wind at our backs again and we're going to practice in the morning and practice well."

Naturally, Luck is a major cause for concern. Not just for what he can do with his arm, but also his feet.

"He's certainly a physical specimen," Cutcliffe said. "He's a good, physical runner. I've talked to some people who have not only coached against him, but played against him, and they said when you hit him he's like a rock. He's just a physical guy and that's one of the reasons why he's so difficult to sack.

"As everyone knows, he would have been the first player taken last year. I'm certain he's headed toward that path again."